Unpopular Opinions Are Unpopular

As Ontario girds for another school year of teacher discontent, the usual litany of union complaints is already piling up — $3.2 billion worth, according to media reports. Amid the well-worn gripes over salary, benefits and class sizes in particular, the elephant in the classroom remains unaddressed: the shockingly high salaries paid to teachers in the province. For all the complaints over class size, funding for equipment and a lack of education assistants, teachers seem blithely content to ignore the role their generous salaries play in those problems.

The numbers speak for themselves. In Hamilton, the public school board operates on an annual budget of $504 million. Of that amount, $373 million, or 73 per cent, goes to teachers’ salaries. If benefits are included, that number jumps to 87 per cent. Just four per cent, by comparison, goes to supplies and textbooks. Toronto tells a similar tale, with secondary school teacher salaries averaging $87,000, followed closely by their elementary counterparts at $82,000. Add in benefits and the numbers clock in at a hair under $100,000 annually. For comparison, the median family income in Ontario is $75,000.

These numbers hold up largely across the province: the overwhelming majority of budgets going towards teacher salaries with table scraps left over for students and supplies.  This point is driven home when one looks at Ontario’s Sunshine List of public-sector employees making over $100,000 each year. Thousands of elementary and secondary school teachers, admin and staff make the list; with some teachers reaching as high as $133,000 annually.